There has been much discussion over the past few weeks about the tent encampment that has grown near the NCDOT property located on Haywood Street near I-240. As the camp has grown, so have the concerns over public safety and public health.
We have received numerous complaints of open drug use, theft, and sexual assault at the campsite. Asheville Police Department (APD) has discovered hypodermic needles strewn throughout the encampment. The Asheville Fire Department has responded to this location five times for open burning, which is especially dangerous when there is a city and statewide burn ban.
Additionally, the tents are adjacent to a busy highway, creating even greater concern for neighbors, motorists and the campers themselves.
APD gave the initial notification to the campers a few weeks ago and advised them individually that they needed to relocate because they were trespassing on NCDOT property and shared concern with them about continued safety issues. APD officers made at least eight trips to the campsite to reinforce that message. Despite our efforts, the campsite continued to grow.
Homeward Bound has visited the camp multiple times over the past few weeks to provide services to the campers and help them relocate; additionally, Haywood Street Congregation has also offered their support to the campers by checking on their well-being and providing food, clothing and hygiene needs, as well as helping with the cleanup.
Unfortunately on December 8, Haywood Street Congregation staff discovered a deceased person in one of the tents.* Staff members then called APD. APD’s detectives and forensic technicians continue to investigate the death. On the morning of December 9, an individual at the campsite was found to be in severe mental distress. APD officers were able to get her mental health services.
Over the past few weeks, APD has been coordinating with the City Manager’s Office and NCDOT staff regarding this increasing public safety and health concern. After all people vacated the encampment, NCDOT assisted in clearing trash and debris.
As camps continue to grow, dangerous conditions are often created. It is imperative that the City and more specifically APD take action to maintain public safety for all: our residents who have shelter, residents who are unsheltered, and our business owners.
“As difficult as these decisions are, we have a responsibility to act when public safety is at risk,” said APD Chief David Zack.
The removal of this large encampment resulted in no arrests.
* Update: Asheville Police Department have identified a man they found deceased December 8 in one of the tents that was erected at Haywood Street near I-240. He was identified as Richard Mark Nabors, 52, of Michigan, by way of Tennessee.